Slowly. It is how every beautiful thing begins, how the tiniest seed sprouts and grows before finally blooming into the most brilliant flower. More than this, however, it is how Elif and I fell in love.
It was October of 2018 when I first downloaded the Slowly app. I set up my profile, and I started receiving letters almost instantly. Indonesia, Canada, Russia, Taiwan, Korea — people from all over the planet suddenly wanted to talk to me. I met so many amazing people, individuals who I never could have met in normal life. They showed me their world and I showed them mine. It was incredibly heartwarming and eye-opening, and it was all thanks to the invisible bridge that Slowly built between us.
I was thrilled with this experience exactly as it was. But on November 22nd, 2018, something unforgettable happened.
It was Thanksgiving here in the United States, so I was at my parents’ house to celebrate. Early in the day, I got a notification that I would soon be receiving a letter from Elif.Murphy in Iran. Iran? What would someone from Iran want to say to me? I was so curious. I looked at her profile and saw she was about the same age as me and wanted to talk with people from around the world. Cool, I thought. I couldn’t wait to get her letter.
That evening, after dinner, it arrived. That first letter was just perfect: sweet, simple, and polite. Honestly, it was so cute. She didn’t write too much, introducing herself only as “Elif, from Iran” and saying that we could be friends, if I would like. Why not? She seemed like a good person, and I was so interested in learning what her life was like in that part of the world.
I wrote back to Elif the next day and we began trading letters regularly. We wrote about family and friends, music and movies, culture and politics. Her life in Iran was so different from mine in the United States and yet we had so much in common, especially our love for animals. She told me that’s why she wrote to me to begin with, because she saw on my profile that I loved all kinds of animals.
As the New Year approached, our letters kept getting longer and longer. We couldn’t stop writing: we always had so much to say to each other. It was clear we weren’t just casual pen pals anymore, but actually good friends. Around Christmas, we finally exchanged phone numbers—and we have not gone a day without messaging each other since. It didn’t matter if it was 5:30 AM and I had just woken up or if I was busy in the middle of my workday, I constantly found myself reaching for my phone to talk with my new friend. We started saying good morning to each other, and good night, and celebrating all kinds of holidays together, over the Internet.
When my birthday rolled around in February, Elif blew my mind. That day, I began to realize just how much I meant to her, and how much she meant to me. She gave me all kinds of beautiful gifts, but the one that touched me the most was the poem she read to me. When I listened to her sweet, soft voice speaking lovely Persian words to me from across the world, it melted my heart. I could hear it in her voice and read it in her words that she cared deeply for me, and that the relationship we shared was more special than I had ever imagined. When she told me I was her best friend, she made me feel like the luckiest man alive.
On and on, for months and months, we continued as “friends.” We look back now and laugh, because it’s all so cute and funny. Both of us were too shy to admit we were in love, but all the signs were there. Even my coworkers could see it.
“What do you keep smiling about?”
“I noticed all those hearts on your phone. Who are you talking to?”
“You’re in love, just admit it.”
In my heart, I knew it was the truth. I felt comfortable with Elif like I have never felt comfortable with another human being. She cared for me, and comforted me, and showed me more respect, kindness, and understanding than anyone I had ever known, even if she was 6,000 miles away. On top of that, I just adored her. I couldn’t get her out of my mind. She was wise, funny, empathetic, passionate, and so beautiful too. She made everyone else I had ever met suddenly disappear. She stood alone in my mind, with a raging fire burning in her heart and in her smile. She had something inside her that nobody else had, and I couldn’t let her go.
I told myself I would admit my love for her on her birthday, but we couldn’t wait that long. I tried so hard to put it off, but our love was growing every day and it was just becoming impossible to deny it.
On June 17th, 2019 we both ended up confessing we were in love.
Like the day we met, this is a day that I will never, ever forget. We poured our hearts out to each other, saying all the things we had wanted to say for so long but were too afraid. Thank God, Elif felt exactly the same for me as I did for her. Her love for me was as strong as mine was for her, if not even stronger.
Everything changed that day. It’s like we were both reborn, like our real lives have now finally started. Our love is simple, pure, and honest—it truly is the greatest thing that has ever happened in our lives. We were both alone and confused like so many other twenty-somethings, but now our path ahead is so clear, so beautiful, so perfect. She is my everything, and every day she reminds me that I am hers.
Together, now, Elif and I dream of our future together. We joke that God did such a wonderful thing by creating two people who were so perfect for each other, but he also needed to challenge us so he put us half a world apart. Well, thank you God for also giving us Slowly so we could find each other.
Given all of the hostile politics between the Iranian and United States governments, we can’t pretend that it will be simple or convenient for us to be together. But who said true love should be either of these things? Whatever we have to go through to be together, we will find a way. These last eleven months have been the best eleven months of our lives, and yet they are only the prologue in the book of our love.
Thank you, Slowly, for creating the app that has brought me my one true love.
And thank you, Elif, for being the most amazing human being I have ever known. I love you azizam.